I recently read Phil Caputo’s THE LONGEST ROAD, the tale of a memorable and long road-trip undertaken by his wife and him to drive from Key West to as far as you can go on road in Alaska, which is Deadhorse, on the Beaufort Sea. Caputo turned 70 around the time of that trip and briefly mused on age in the story and it struck me as germane. I myself today turn 70, (which strikes me as both ludicrous and unbelievable) because this happens to be the lifespan allotted in the Bible. Psalm 90, Verse 10: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be four score years, yet is their labor and sorrow, for it is soon cut off and we fly away.” Eerie. Reading this is like getting an injection of some sort of nuke-juiced juju.
The Bible calls for an end, and ironically this appears to apply to us in that we will most likely not be able to come back to Deer Park next year and, because of this, we have put out feelers and the infamous “word,” to friends, as we seek a new UP refuge for next May through October. Or, failing the Yoop, perhaps somewhere BTB on trout water. We’d love to spend five months on a trout stream and be able to experience its moods and changes, but at this point we are facing an open end for 2014, and shall land where fate dictates. So, change is in the wind, as it always is for life is change, as is age, and I’ve never felt so creative in my threescore and ten years. Lots of my writer colleagues maintain they have trouble getting stories to come to them. My problem is the opposite. I have more in my head than I can possibly ever write, and they are percolating all the time.
Historian-Novelist Bernard DeVoto wrote: “Exactly how any novel grows in a writer’s mind will always be, I think, beyond research. But certainly the process is in large part one of accretion, of feeling for the true thing in emotion and action, of testing and modifying and amplifying it, of fumbling through the false or the merely plausible to be true, or if you like, apparently true. Characters grow in the mind, not unlike embryos growing in the womb. Scenes for the expression of emotion, meaning, or significant event. The scenes grow and develop and proliferate. Additional meanings besides the originally intended ones are revealed in them. They form sequences and these come to be seen as necessary. There is rejection, substitution, adaption, adjustment. Content is being shaped into form; form is developing into content.”
This is as apt a description of the indescribable that I’ve ever run across.
Readers are often urging me to write faster (mostly because they are older, I think). But you cahn only write at the speed your creativity will allow you – like a built-in speed control or governor (prototype for a computer filter?). Just yesterday I finished the first final draft of MOUNTAINS OF THE MISBEGOTTEN, Lute Bapcat and Sergey Zakov’s second outing. I began the actual writing with 1,223 words on May 1, 2012 and have been imagining and writing the story pretty well ever since, finishing yesterday with a manuscript at 100,310 words, about average novel length. MOUNTAINS began its life under the title of JABBERTOWN. The day before the finish, we were in Newberry, having lunch at Pickelman’s Pantry and I wrote the first line to a short story in one of the fly leafs of a biography of Edward Albee. I had no idea this had been brewing, but it popped out as we waited for breakfast and last night after dinner I finished the first rough draft of the story, which will come in around 2,500 words or so and has for the moment a working title of “First Day of the Last Day of the World.” This title only came to me as I wrote the first line. I often get ideas for titles, that may eventually become poems or short stories, or novels and I maintain a living list which I update every time I think of a new one. The titles alone may help me with something down the line, or not.
I maintain a living Limpy Lexicon as well, the latest entry in that, “Feeding the Indians,” meaning “going to a tribal casono.”
HARD GROUND came out just this past spring and I am seriously working on another collection to be called EXTREME GROUND, all female characters in various first-responder jobs. As a writer with only brothers, I feel compelled to create strong, fully developed female characters doing jobs that people my age have always associated with men for reasons we don’t need to jaw about here. I like strong tell-it-like-it- is, in-your-face women. So, we shall see.
Meanwhile I have another novel done. It’s called BROWN BALL and sometime this winter I will put it into play with my agent. This story stands alone, that is, not part of any series, and is set in San Antonio Texas in the summer of 1956. I want to wait until after deer season to give it my full attention.
And I know the next Bapcat book will be set in 1918, in Russia with a group of American soldiers called the Polar Bears, many of whom (most?) were from Upper Michigan. No title for that story yet. I’ll let the narrative and pre-writing mind-cooking phase give it to me. And the next Grady Service, Number 10 in his parade, has a working title of BUCKULAR DYSTROPHY. A story of the sorts of off-the-deep-end extremists for deer hunting type COs sometimes encounter. The story will be based on a couple of actual cases, one of which I was inside to observe. And so it goes. The stories are up in my head, always cooking and growing and solidifying and fermenting, waiting for their turn to run through my wrist onto a piece of paper. And of course, I continue to write poems, mostly for the discipline they teach in economy of words, and imagery, and cadence and meter. I admire poets and what they do.
Finally I got word on Monday that GRAY’S SPORTING JOURNAL will publish one of my pieces in the March/April 2014 issue. The title of the story is Les Truites Rose. I sent my revisions to the editor this morning. Fun piece.
So much to write, so little time to do it all. One day my grave marker may say, RAN OUT OF TIME, NOT ALTITUDE, GAS OR STORIES.
Enough middle-of the-night meander-blathering. Two days ago Lonnie got to watch an osprey and a bald eagle soaring together on autumn wind thermals. Change approaches us once again and it is like going into a time machine without effective destination controls and one day finding ourselves spilled out in a new place with new people and things to explore and think about. Damn fine birthday gift, if you ask me. Nothing is worse for a writer than to stand still and look back nodding contently while he awaits his next fart or belch, like a dumbass bobbledeyhead on the dashboard of a ‘65 Mustang. A writer is both pilot and navigator and the only place for our eyes is ahead, always ahead. The two most worthless things in life? The runway behind you and the altitude above you. Joseph Heywood, Septuagenarian. I can see my mom smiling at that. This is going to take some getting used to. Over